Thursday, January 29, 2015

Long Live The Queen

"True greatness lay in living in harmony with Him,
and in living wisely and exercising power with humility."
--Alison Weir, Captive Queen

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pages: 473
Publication Date: July 13th, 2010
Source: Bought
Previous Books in Series: Standalone
Goodreads Description

Having proven herself a gifted and engaging novelist with her portrayals of Queen Elizabeth I in The Lady Elizabeth and Lady Jane Grey in Innocent Traitor, New York Times bestselling author Alison Weir now harks back to the twelfth century with a sensuous and tempestuous tale that brings vividly to life England’s most passionate—and destructive—royal couple: Eleanor of Aquitaine and King Henry II.

Nearing her thirtieth birthday, Eleanor has spent the past dozen frustrating years as consort to the pious King Louis VII of France. For all its political advantages, the marriage has brought Eleanor only increasing unhappiness—and daughters instead of the hoped-for male heir. But when the young and dynamic Henry of Anjou arrives at the French court, Eleanor sees a way out of her discontent. For even as their eyes meet for the first time, the seductive Eleanor and the virile Henry know that theirs is a passion that could ignite the world.

Returning to her duchy of Aquitaine after the annulment of her marriage to Louis, Eleanor immediately sends for Henry, the future King of England, to come and marry her. The union of this royal couple will create a vast empire that stretches from the Scottish border to the Pyrenees, and marks the beginning of the celebrated Plantagenet dynasty.

But Henry and Eleanor’s marriage, charged with physical heat, begins a fiery downward spiral marred by power struggles, betrayals, bitter rivalries, and a devil’s brood of young Plantagenets—including Richard the Lionheart and the future King John. Early on, Eleanor must endure Henry’s formidable mother, the Empress Matilda, as well as his infidelities, while in later years, Henry’s friendship with Thomas Becket will lead to a deadly rivalry. Eventually, as the couple’s rebellious sons grow impatient for power, the scene is set for a vicious and tragic conflict that will engulf both Eleanor and Henry.

Vivid in detail, epic in scope, Captive Queen is an astounding and brilliantly wrought historical novel that encompasses the building of an empire and the monumental story of a royal marriage.
So I've never read a book about Eleanor of Aquitaine but I've had this on my shelf forever after reading Aison Weir's book Innocent Traitor, and loving it, and buying this as well as The Lady Elizabeth. Anyways. So, I've had this book forever and wasn't in the mood to read anything else so I was like, what the hell, let's give this a try. And then I couldn't put it down. I fell in fictional friendship love with Eleanor and her fierce attitude. This was a woman in the 12th century who did not let anybody tell her what to do. And when they did and she fought back, well...things didn't turn out for the best but the point of the matter is, she fought. She fought for her marriage to Louis of France to be annulled so she could pursue a man who makes her heart beat faster and feels like her skin is on fire. She fights for her children's rights and inheritance. She fights for a woman to be recognized as a strong, capable human with a brain not just for sewing. She is seriously one of the best historical figures I've read about and I'm in shock what she did in the 1100's being what men's opinions of women were at that time.

Girl Power
More on Eleanor and her feminism, she is the rightful Duchess of Aquitaine and fights her whole life in order to rule her country. Henry tries, and fails dismally, to overrule her and show people he is the one in charge and the best thing about this? The people and the unruly lords of Aquitaine choose to bow to her. Win for Eleanor. People love her and everyone who has a negative opinion of her changes their tune once they get to know her. They realize she is not a harlot or corrupt, she is smart and strong and capable of intelligent conversation and running a country successfully. Her independence was a beautiful thing to read about, as was her fierce desire to protect her children. She fights against her husband constantly in order to do what is best for her children when Henry is too blind to see it. What a fool that man is, but I digress. Speaking of her children, they too bow to her. They love their mother fiercely and in turn protect and defend her when it is needed. I LOVED THIS!! In a man's world where the King is not only your King but your father, their children defied the man and knew the woman was the one to fight for. Le sigh.

The Story
You seriously cannot make up the crazy and true shit that happens in history. The past really is the best storyteller because the drama and events that actually unfolded are unreal. I loved reading about this time period because unlike all my Tudor books, I didn't really know the ending. I knew John would turn out to be an asshole because of all the Robin Hood stories, but that's about it. Although, I wish a few things were different, like Henry dying a slow painful death due to syphilis but I'll get to him below. Seriously. The book was paced pretty fantastically. There were a few slower parts towards the end when not a lot happens and a few years are skipped at a time but that was due in part to the author's purpose of highlighting the marriage between Eleanor and Henry and not all the political intrigue so it's understandable. I was fascinated with how her life played out and what happens to her children. I couldn't put this book down and ended up speeding through it. Her life and love was legendary and Eleanor of Aquitaine is definitely not somebody to mess with.
The Romance
Her relationship with Henry of Anjou, soon to be Henry II, is tumultuous to say the least. It is fiery and passionate and visceral. They love each other something fierce...but it's the 1100's and a man (and King) will do what a man does in that time...take as many women into his bed as he pleases. I know this was more than common at the time but it broke my heart along with Eleanor's. She thought they had something special and sacred and she was never unfaithful to him and he is such a bastard. Their romance is completely captivating to read about, don't get me wrong, I wanted to love Henry and I did at times but shit, when he wronged Eleanor I wanted to cut his balls off. I'm petitioning Laura Andersen to write an alternate history where Eleanor gets all the last laughs with Henry...or he's just faithful...either one. And the cherry on top of the sundae? Henry is so blind in his judgements of people that Eleanor tries to warn him time and time again about a specific bad person around him and he never listens to her. Drastic and epic consequences ensue because he didn't listen to his wife about a man that Henry thought he could trust. It was so obvious this buy was a weasel and he was an idiot not to see it. Stupid moron. I just hated how much she felt for him throughout her whole life and just when you think he is redeemable, he does something even more awful. Ugh, what a prick.

The Dialogue

This wasn't a huge determent for me as it might be for others, but I found the dialogue at times to sound very modern. Certain terms of phrase didn't sound like something they would say 900 years ago so I eyebrow raised a few times but I got over it. It made the book go by more quickly that I didn't have to decipher some words and phrases that I didn't understand.

Backstage Pass
I loved this book. If you're looking for a dramatic historical fiction with a totally kickass historical heroine, Eleanor of Aquitaine is your girl. She officially joins the ranks of Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth Woodville in my ranks. And that's a hard feat to accomplish.

1 comment:

  1. Ooh! I've never heard of Captive Queen, but you make it sound so darn intriguing in your review. I think Eleanor sounds like a badass of her time, and would LOVE to meet her for myself ;)


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