Book Review: Captive Queen – Alison Weir

Title: Captive Queen: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine
Author: Alison Weir
ISBN: 9780345511874
Pages: 496
Release Date: July 13, 2010
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 2 out of 5

Summary:

Eleanor of Aquitaine has been married to King Louis of France for over ten years, and they have had an unhappy marriage.  When he finally agrees to divorce, Eleanor falls into the arms of Henry of Anjou, a charismatic and handsome young man who fulfills her.  This book is a look at Eleanor’s life and marriage to Henry II, and the clash between her deep love for him and her struggle to be accepted as his equal.

Review:

I’ve enjoyed Alison Weir’s non-fiction, as well as her previous historical novels, so I was very excited to sit down with her novel Captive Queen.  Eleanor of Aquitaine is definitely an intriguing subject, and as I don’t know a lot about her, I was eager to soak this book in.

Unfortunately, Captive Queen didn’t live up to the promise of Weir’s previous books.  Eleanor was certainly written as a sympathetic character, though her temper and rash decisionmaking often got the best of her.  It is clear that her marriage to Henry was not a happy one, but it was difficult to truly feel for her, as she decided to marry him because of her lust.  After years of living without physical love, she married the first man who caught her eye without taking the time to understand his beliefs or what he expected of her.  From the beginning, the reader can tell this marriage is a very bad idea, and that is only confirmed as the novel progresses.

The sheer amount of sex in this novel is difficult as well.  Eleanor seems to be insatiable – every few pages, she and Henry are having bodice-ripper quality sex.  I don’t have a problem with the idea of Eleanor being a sexual woman – it’s likely she was, considering how fiery of a personality she had (and Weir goes into it a little bit in the Author’s Note at the end of the novel).  I just didn’t need to read about it over…and over…and over…and over again to get the point. 

Eleanor of Aquitaine was a fascinating woman, and her story has become almost legend.  Why, then, was this book so dry?  I can’t really say for certain.  It could have had to do with the pacing, or the fact that I didn’t find Eleanor to be a very endearing woman (though I did hate what Henry put her through, especially towards the end of the novel).  This book had the potential to be so exciting, but it just fell flat.

Despite my disappointment in Captive Queen, I’m still definitely a fan of Alison Weir.  I have a lot of her non-fiction on my shelves, and the fact that I didn’t enjoy this novel won’t preclude me from picking those up.  Additionally, I’ll still look forward to any future novels she puts out; I just won’t be recommending this one.

Other books by Alison Weir:

The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn

Comments

  1. And you have definitely confirmed that I won’t be reading this one – I’ve said in other comments that I don’t mind the idea of Eleanor as a sexual woman either, or a little sex, but I don’t need it every few pages. How would that even work to progress the story? I skip over excessive sex in every book and I think this would just disappoint me.

  2. And you have definitely confirmed that I won’t be reading this one – I’ve said in other comments that I don’t mind the idea of Eleanor as a sexual woman either, or a little sex, but I don’t need it every few pages. How would that even work to progress the story? I skip over excessive sex in every book and I think this would just disappoint me.

  3. Oh no, this one probably wouldn’t be for me, as I don’t really like an overabundance of bodice-ripping sex in my historical fiction. It kind of stinks though because I really don’t know all that much about Eleanor and it might have made a nice read for me, but like I said, I think I am going to have to skip this one. Thanks for the honesty and insight!

  4. Oh no, this one probably wouldn’t be for me, as I don’t really like an overabundance of bodice-ripping sex in my historical fiction. It kind of stinks though because I really don’t know all that much about Eleanor and it might have made a nice read for me, but like I said, I think I am going to have to skip this one. Thanks for the honesty and insight!

  5. ARRGH!! I wanted this one to be good, but I keep hearing bad things about it. Sorry you didn’t like it, but thanks for saving me the pain :)

  6. ARRGH!! I wanted this one to be good, but I keep hearing bad things about it. Sorry you didn’t like it, but thanks for saving me the pain :)

  7. I don’t think this is for me! LOL It sounds like that book I was showing you on Sunday, only set in a different time period!

  8. I don’t think this is for me! LOL It sounds like that book I was showing you on Sunday, only set in a different time period!

  9. This is the most universally poorly reviewed book that I have seen in a while. It interesting that only a few people have not though that she got it all wrong. I guess if I start to read Weir I will stat with her first novel and seek out Eleanor of Acquitane elsewhere.

  10. This is the most universally poorly reviewed book that I have seen in a while. It interesting that only a few people have not though that she got it all wrong. I guess if I start to read Weir I will stat with her first novel and seek out Eleanor of Acquitane elsewhere.

  11. You’re in the majority of reviewers of this book. How did this get published?

  12. You’re in the majority of reviewers of this book. How did this get published?

  13. Eleanor’s life was so fascinating – I haven’t for the life of me figured out why Weir felt like she had to resort to cheap sex scenes to try and make it interesting. In addition, I thought a lot of the book was poorly written.

  14. Eleanor’s life was so fascinating – I haven’t for the life of me figured out why Weir felt like she had to resort to cheap sex scenes to try and make it interesting. In addition, I thought a lot of the book was poorly written.

  15. UGH! UGH! So disappointed to hear this!

  16. UGH! UGH! So disappointed to hear this!

  17. oh no! I recently bought a copy of this book . I had no idea it was disappointing.

    Misha

  18. oh no! I recently bought a copy of this book . I had no idea it was disappointing.

    Misha

  19. I absolutely love Weir. I have an Eleanor rec for you though because her story is fascinating if done right. She was an amazing woman in a time when women had little to say on any subject.

    The Book of Eleanor by Pamela Kaufman is written like a diary. I really enjoyed it.

    http://www.amazon.com/Book-Eleanor-Novel-Aquitaine/dp/B003A02V3G/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1281033721&sr=8-1

  20. I absolutely love Weir. I have an Eleanor rec for you though because her story is fascinating if done right. She was an amazing woman in a time when women had little to say on any subject.

    The Book of Eleanor by Pamela Kaufman is written like a diary. I really enjoyed it.

    http://www.amazon.com/Book-Eleanor-Novel-Aquitaine/dp/B003A02V3G/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1281033721&sr=8-1

  21. I have a love/hate thing with Weir, two books I found fantastic, but the others bad and lacking in objectivity. I’d like to read this book for the history but won’t place any hopes on it being good otherwise.

  22. I have a love/hate thing with Weir, two books I found fantastic, but the others bad and lacking in objectivity. I’d like to read this book for the history but won’t place any hopes on it being good otherwise.

  23. If you all like Eleanor of Aquataine, you should watch The Lion in Wiinter. It has Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor, Peter O’Toole as Henry, and Anthony Hopkins as Richard. It’s a FABULOUS movie–Hepburn won her 4th Oscar for it.

  24. If you all like Eleanor of Aquataine, you should watch The Lion in Wiinter. It has Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor, Peter O’Toole as Henry, and Anthony Hopkins as Richard. It’s a FABULOUS movie–Hepburn won her 4th Oscar for it.

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