It is the year 1152, and a beautiful woman of 30, attended by only a small armed escort, is riding like the wind southwards through what is now France, leaving behind her crown, her two young daughters, and a shattered marriage to Louis of France, who had been more like a monk than a king, and certainly not much of a lover.
This woman is Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine, and her sole purpose now is to return to her vast duchy and marry the man she loves, Henry Plantagenet, a man destined for greatness as King of England. Theirs is a union founded on lust, which will create a great empire stretching from the wilds of Scotland to the Pyrenees. It will also create the devil's brood of Plantagenets - including Richard Cœur de Lion and King John - and the most notoriously vicious marriage in history.
The Captive Queen is a novel on a grand scale, an epic subject for Alison Weir. It tells of the making of nations, and of passionate conflicts: between Henry II and Thomas Becket, his closest friend, who is murdered in Canterbury Cathedral on his orders; between Eleanor and Henry's formidable mother, Matilda; between father and sons, as Henry's children take up arms against him; and finally between Henry and Eleanor herself.
©2010 Alison Weir (P)2010 Random House Audiobooks
"Weir sweeps the listener into The Captive Queen... a story that never grows old." (Daily Express)
It's OK, not an intolerable read if you're busy in the garden or to accompany a long walk, but Weir's factual history is much more interesting and surprisingly, much better written. I don't think her fiction works because she's clearly more at home in non-fictional history than novels. Her dialogue is clunky and the descriptions sound awkward and contrived. The sex scenes are dire - definitely a candidate for the Bad Sex award in fiction!
Her non fiction books on Queen Isabella and Katherine Swinford are great reads and I thoroughly enjoyed them - she's one of my favourite historians - but I think she should leave historical fiction to Hilary Mantel. Try one of her proper histories intead!
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