Romantic Biographical Fiction
Heat level 2- moderate
REVIEWER RATING: 5 STARS
BLURB: A stunning debut novel of Marguerite and Eleanor of Provence–sisters, rivals, and queens of France and England in the 13th century. Patient, perfect, and used to being first, Marguerite becomes Queen of France. But Louis IX is a religious zealot who denies himself the love and companionship his wife craves. Can she borrow enough of her sister’s boldness to grasp her chance for happiness in a forbidden love? Passionate, strong-willed, and stubborn, Eleanor becomes Queen of England. Henry III is a good man, but not a good king. Can Eleanor stop competing with her sister and value what she has, or will she let it slip away?
REVIEW BY JENNY Q
Sophie Perinot has crafted a fantastic tale of two sisters who were born and raised to greatness, and managed to remain true to each other even though their husbands were adversaries. Not to say they didn’t have some ups and downs and arguments and rivalries as sisters will have, and though they both ascend to the same lofty position, they each have their own path to take, with vastly different results. The story alternates between the sisters as they begin their marriages and take up their roles as queens, seamlessly interweaving the histories of both kingdoms with their personal stories, and taking the reader on a journey throughout 13th century Provence, Paris, London, and the Holy Land.
The sisters keep up a regular correspondence, confiding their hopes and fears to each other as Eleanor strives to support her husband’s largely ineffectual rule, and as Marguerite endures her husband’s lack of interest and her overbearing mother-in-law’s cruelty, and their stories are as full of glamour, passion, and high drama as queen’s lives should be. I took my time savoring this exceptional historical fiction debut.
Sophie Perinot’s writing style is simple and honest and all the more eloquent for it. As I was reading I was reminded of one of my favorite historical fiction authors, Sharon Kay Penman. (Although Ms. Perinot’s style is deliciously more sexy) There’s not a word out of place, and I must have marked a dozen beautiful passages of description and observation. Whether the emotion is grief, anger, or love, Perinot gives it life and evokes it from the reader. She gives her queens the freedom to be real women, with all of their hopes and dreams and triumphs and disappointments, yet she keeps them within the constraints of their time. Though they are both wise and passionate women, they are also subservient to their husbands and defined by their roles as consorts.
The story is well-crafted and perfectly paced, culminating in the coming together of the English and French courts and a long-awaited reunion of the sisters that has a few surprises in store, and that will leave a lasting mark on history. I couldn’t put it down and relished the poignant ending. And Perinot has included a great author’s note explaining the choices she made and how she arrived at some of her conclusions. Historical fiction lovers rejoice! A new and true talent has arrived on the scene!
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
I’m a book blogging, history geeking, dog loving, sun worshipping, football watching southern girl, and I love romantic historical fiction! There’s only one thing I like more than falling in love, and that’s being swept away to another time and place to fall in love! Put history and romance together and I’m in heaven! I adore romances that transport me to a bygone era, offering me a glimpse of the triumphs and struggles our ancestors faced as they shaped the world we live in today. I post reviews of books I recommend to my blog, Let Them Read Books, and I love to talk books on Goodreads and Twitter. Come join me!