This story could be summed up with one phrase: Be careful what you wish for, you just might get exactly what you want. Alienor of Aquitaine was just young girl when her father, William X of Aquitaine, started grooming her to become his heir. Alienor learns at an early age to inspire love and loyalty in her people and how to be powerful in the midst of the ruthless politics of court. Alienor enjoyed life in Aquitaine in the Court of Love with her father and younger sister Petra and her only request of her father was to help her become the Queen of France. With her father’s mysterious and untimely death, Alienor becomes Duchess of Aquitaine at the tender age of 15 and she is forced to finish her own betrothal agreement with the King of France—an agreement which is prolonged by Alienor’s refusal to give up her duchy to her husband but to remain Duchess of Aquitaine with the title passing on to her son.
Louis VII was raised in the Church, being the second son he never aspired to become King, however he is forced to do so upon the death of his older brother. The Church means everything to Louis and the Church’s power only grows stronger with Louis VII on the throne. Being young, impressionable and dedicated to God, he is easily manipulated by the Church. Although he is awed by Alienor, now named Eleanor by Louis, his true love and devotion is to the Church and God. Eleanor tries to guide her weak and naive husband but she faces a constant opposition at every turn by the Church. Trapped in a loveless marriage that has only produced daughters for France and in a life in which she does not believe, Eleanor looks to dissolve her marriage to the King of France and return home to Aquitaine.
This story is everything that a great historical fiction should be—it’s educational; it’s exciting; there’s romance, deception and betrayal; and finally it’s a fantastic read. I have loved Alienor of Aquitaine ever since I learned about her in a French history class in University. She was a strong, independent, determined and unconventional woman who was born to rule in a time of male dominance. I read Christy English’s “The Queen’s Pawn” last year and I have to say that English’s sophomore novel is just as good as her debut novel. It is evident that English has a personal love and interest in her subject, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and this shines through in her writing. The story is written in such a way that it is evident that English did her research. She paints her characters in such a life-like way that it is possible for the reader to be able to feel the love between Alienor and her father. Her father William realizes that his daughter is special and instead of remarrying to produce an heir, he is comfortable leaving his lands to his daughter—there is obviously a loving and trusting bond between the two. Her style of writing and the amount of rich details evokes the senses – it is almost as if the reader is transported into the novel and experiencing the same sounds, smells and sights as the characters. I thoroughly enjoyed this fast paced, page-turner by Christy English and I cannot wait to read what she has in store for the future.