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!