Monday, March 28, 2011

To Be Queen: A Novel of the Early Life of Eleanor of Aquitaine by Christy English

To Be Queen: A Novel of the Early Life of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Christy English. New American Library. April 2011. 400 pp. ISBN #: 9780451232304.

"As I sat alone in my tent, with only Amaria to attend me, I wondered. Perhaps it was time to build a new dream for myself." What is it like to be raised by a loving father who instilled a sense of equality and dignity in a daughter that would enable her to rule the Province of Aquitaine one day? How does one maintain that dream in a world of marriage to King Louis VII, the boy King who loves the Catholic Church more than his kingdom or wife, for the most part, who considers sexual relations to be a grievous sin for which he must constantly repent?

This is the story of Eleanor's early years when she is clinging to her independence in a world that sees woman as worthy of dalliance, piety, and childbirth. Correction - most woman are allowed dalliance, but the Queen of France is expected to be the model Christian Queen. At first she believes she can bring Louis around to be a close husband in all ways but gradually she knows it's a losing battle against Louis' confessors, one of whom will later reveal grievous crimes beyond one's comprehension.

Travel with Eleanor and Louis on their way to the Crusades in Jerusalem, experiencing the architecture, interior design, food, and styles of the citizens of Constantinople, Antioch, and more European cities that greet this royal couple with joy while their leaders reveal scintillating and devious motivations and acts that continue to shock and alarm the reader.

Know the brief joy that Eleanor finds with two men throughout these years and finally one,Henry of Normandy, to whom she will give her heart, mind and soul forever. Christy English has written a well-researched but quite realistic picture of Eleanor of Aquitaine, who "became" the renowned fiery, powerful leader during these younger years when life seemed fragile and yet glorious enough to grasp, live in fully, and celebrate with those who shared her dreams.

Ever provocative, unpredictable, humorous, and free in spirit, Eleanor will delight you through every page of this very, very enjoyable novel. Delightful, Christy English!

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