Captive Queen by Alison Weir – DNF Book Review

Captive Queen by Alison Weir

Eleanor of Aquitaine is perhaps one of the most interesting queens that England ever had (sorry, Victoria, but I don’t think you hold a candle to Eleanor). She seems to have been the ultimate in smart and sassy 12th century women, unafraid to speak her mind, leave her first husband, or side with her sons in a revolt against her husband, King Henry II of England.  So naturally, I was ecstatic when I read that Alison Weir’s new work of fiction would be about her.

Except that this was the most disappointing book I’ve read in a long time. Not necessarily the worst I’ve read, but the most disappointing, because I expect more from Weir. The dialogue was absolutely terrible, very stilted and modern, with Eleanor provocatively asking Henry to prove his manhood to her while she was still married to the King of France.

Which of course brings us to all the sex. Much has been made of the excessive sex in “Captive Queen.” I have no inherent problem with Eleanor as a sexual being. Honestly, I’ve always thought of her as a woman who wanted to make sure she took her pleasure, since that is consistent with the first fictional treatment of Eleanor I read. What I do have a problem with, is the excessive sex starting right at the beginning of the book. From what I understand it doesn’t necessarily continue, but it just made “Captive Queen” come across as tawdry from the beginning. Basically, it was just another example of the book being ill-crafted.

From another author, I might have actually finished the book, but Weir can do better. The beginning was bad enough that even if the rest of the book was solid, it simply wasn’t worth my time, especially since I know there are better treatments of Eleanor out there.

Case in point, “The Courts of Love” by Jean Plaidy. Like Weir, Plaidy views Eleanor as a strong woman and a sexual being. However, she works Eleanor’s sexuality in natural way instead of dumping it all in the beginning. Her Eleanor also has much more natural speech pattern.

Consensus: Skip Weir’s new book, and pick up the Plaidy reissue “The Courts of Love” instead. Bonus: it is in paperback!

I received “Captive Queen” from the publisher via LibraryThing Early Reviewers. I purchased “The Courts of Love” with my own money.

17 comments to Captive Queen by Alison Weir – DNF Book Review

  • I’ll have to try the Plaidy – you know my feelings on the Weir!

  • Oh no! I loved Innocent Traitor so much. It’s sad to hear this about her new novel. Still, I’m not shocked. The Lady Elizabeth really did nothing for me. I wonder if Weir is a one-hit fiction writer?

  • Yeah, I won’t be reading this any time soon. I don’t have problems with the idea of Eleanor as a sexual being either, all people are, but it just sounds like far too much. I’m just glad I didn’t get it for review!

  • I need to know how far you got into it, and I am very curious about the dialogue :) Philippa Gregory does that in her historical novels: excessive sex a la The Constant Princess.

    Sorry to hear that this novel didn’t work out for you…reading a bad book is the worst for a book lover.

  • Very well explained, and from the sounds of it, I don’t blame you for dropping this one. Too many other good ones out there.

  • Sorry this didn’t work for you – I won’t be picking it up any time soon.

  • I finished it -Eleanor herself interested me enough for that – but I agree that this is not one worth picking up. I’ll have to try your recommendation instead.

  • Oh I love The Courts of Love! I need to read it again.

  • I couldn’t agree more…..this book just wasn’t worth my time. And I love your suggestion for a replacement! Plaidy is queen of the historical novel, no question.

    ps….and you’re right: it wasn’t the sex. It was the piss-poor writing! Arghhhhh.

  • I’ve read Weir in the past and enjoyed her works so I trust you when you say to pass this one up!! I have a Plaidy book that I bought last year…now I should probably read it huh? 😀

  • Pam

    I have read most of Plaidy’s stuff but I haven’t read that one. I need to buy it. I did read The Book of Eleanor, it was written as her sitting down during her imprisonment and as a diary of sorts. I really enjoyed that.

  • I really like Weir’s nonfiction. I read one HF of hers and liked it okay but I wasn’t drawn in as much as I am to her nonfiction. I’m going to skip this one. I generally like Plaidy’s work, and this is one I haven’t read yet.

  • Disappointing to read this about Weir. Thanks for the honest review. Plaidy always come up trumps with her historical fiction.

  • I can understand why you DNF. And I’m glad that it wasn’t Eleanor’s sexuality itself that did this book in for you (we have very similar HF tastes and I already knew you loved THE COURTS OF LOVE so I would not have thought that it would). I think the beginning of the book was quite aggressive and if I did not have a 3 hour Jitney ride out East, I don’t know that I would have hung in there to see the light of day. Fortunately for me there was a light at the end of the tunnel and I was able to enjoy the majority of the rest of the book once I got over that odd hump (no pun intended, ha).

    It’s very odd to me because I thought Innocent Traitor was so good! And this felt like a first novel to me, not the work of a seasoned veteran and bona fide historian.

  • Jean

    The review of this book by Carolyn See is a real hoot. She says at one point that very little is known about Eleanor! At another point she says that Eleanor was a very boring queen! Obviously, Ms. See doesn’t read many books outside her own.