Release Date: April 5, 2011
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Eleanor of Aquitaine is a tough lady to like, and Christy English's version is no exception. Eleanor is haughty and bold, which can be totally fine if the lady backs up her sass with badassery. Unfortunately, this Eleanor does a lot more "talking the talk" than actually "walking the walk."
Is that Christy English or Eleanor? I'm inclined to put more of the blame onto the author with this one because unlike Katherine, Eleanor was actually right in the middle of all the juicy political turmoil and was definitely a key schemer.
And, to be fair, many of the events were mentioned. Eleanor did face kidnapping attempts and she did go on Crusade and her power struggles with her (first) husband's men were mentioned. But this was all very surface and often took a back seat whenever Eleanor felt some lusty urges (both rumored real and totally fictional).
It doesn't bode well when more detail is spent describing Eleanor's passion for her lover of the week than on her political intrigues, events, the historical setting, or deeper character development (doubly so when said romantic dalliances are also historical liberties).
Sure she talked about her power and what she wanted to ultimately happen but that's all it was. Talk. And it was pretty weak talk at that in a very "Eleanor Rules, Suger Drools" kind of simplistic end game.
She sounded like a petulant child stomping her foot and relying on "BECAUSE I'M QUEEN" to get her way when it should have been "Because I will politically DESTROY YOU, and let me explain in great detail the jaw-dropping scope of my plan."
The real Eleanor was a little more cunning and not quite as one-note as Christy English portrayed. I would have really appreciated it if she had delved a little deeper into Eleanor's craftiness and political manipulations. That also would have gone a long way toward me, if not liking Eleanor (lady was a harsh mom), then at least respecting her.
Oh well. Despite all that, it was a good enough run down of some of the main events of the time that I'm glad I read it. And, despite Eleanor's thin portrayal, the author actually did give a decently nuanced characterization of Eleanor's first husband Louis VII. He was deplorably weak but also way more sympathetic and likable and his struggles were presented in a compassionate, thought-provoking manner. I'd recommend the book for Louis alone.
I will read the companion novel The Queen's Pawn, but I'll also be on the lookout for a better Eleanor book. Surprisingly, (or not), the Royal Diaries Eleanor installment is still holding strong in comparison.
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