Finally, A New Take of King Henry II and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Awarded four stars on Goodreads.
Book 2 in this three-novel series about Eleanor from Elizabeth Chadwick is a very satisfying and believable read!
As a devotee of historical fiction, I have read perhaps a dozen novels about Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. And it has always puzzled me how many different authors present this marriage in a nearly identical way. That is — two powerful figures fall deeply in love but grow distant over time because of Henry’s repeated infidelities. This has never seemed a satisfactory explanation for me and I’ve always felt this portrayal did not do justice to Eleanor.
This is why I was so pleased to read Elizabeth Chadwick’s new take which I find much more believable. Her story is of two smart, passionate, ambitious, and determined medieval figures who come together because their union is mutually beneficial. Theirs is a fiery relationship from the beginning. Here are two people who are physically compatible, share a determination to create a lasting dynasty, but each possesses such a strong ego that neither is willing to yield to the other.
Chadwick’s Eleanor is experienced and capable and wants to rule alongside her husband, governing jointly. Henry wants her in a more traditionally female, subservient position. Her resentment and the friction between them begins to build from day one and continues building over time as Henry refuses to either recognize or tap Eleanor’s considerable wisdom and talent. Eleanor, a former Queen of France and current Duchess of Aquitaine in her own right chafes as being relegated to the sidelines after years of being center stage. This portrayal rings more true for me. And I’m grateful that an author has finally imagined an explanation of how Eleanor could go from eager bride to rebellious and imprisoned wife in just a few short years.
Chadwick’s prose is well written and her characters richly drawn. This is the second of three novels Chadwick is writing about Eleanor and I’m looking forward to #3.