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