Acclaimed historical novelist Sharon Kay Penman also gifts us with a trilogy about this period. Although she does describe the early years of Henry and Alienor in the first volume, WHEN CHRIST AND HIS SAINTS SLEPT, that book mostly focuses on the battle between Maud and her cousin Stephen for the throne of England. It is her second volume, TIME AND CHANCE, that brings us into the heart of the marriage between Henry and Alienor, beginning after the birth of their five sons and three daughters. If dissention in Wales, struggles with her first husband Louis VII, and the epic battle between the power of church and state that pits Henry against former good friend Thomas Becket, now Archbishop of Canterbury, weren’t enough to destabilize their relationship and the throne, the beginning of Henry’s affair with baron’s daughter Rosamund Clifford signals the end of both the love story and the partnership.
The third book of her trilogy, DEVIL’S BROOD, carries the tumultuous relationship into the final years, when Alienor bands with her sons against her husband. While her husband seeks to subdue Ireland, Alienor takes over the governing of Aquitaine and the upbringing of her family. With Hal crowned as King in his father’s absence, her favorite Richard designated as future Duke of Aquitaine, her son Geoffrey marrying a woman of ambition and cunning, Alienor must balance the demands of being mother and queen as she tries to guide England into the next generation.
Finally, for a very different take on Alienor as Queen and patroness of the arts, we have SONG AT DAWN: 1150 IN PROVENCE (TROUBADOUR QUARTET BOOK 1) by Jean Gill. Although the other books in this series follow the further adventures of its heroine, Estela, a gifted musician whose talent wins her a place at the court of the Queen of France, the first gives us an expanded view of the pre-Henry Alienor. In her quest to establish herself as the foremost lady of Europe and promoter of the cult of “Courtly Love,” Alienor brings her musician with her on a visit to Ermengarde, Viscomtesse of Narbonne, where heroine Estela meets her hero, knight and troubadour Dragonetz. Before they set off on their adventures, the reader is treated to a fascinating picture of the rivalry between these two powerful historical rulers, each of whom must deal with jealous courtiers, misogynist church officials, and the problems created by weak and inept husbands.
(For those who become fascinated by Estela, Gill continues her story in BLADESONG: 1151 IN THE HOLY LAND and PLAINT FOR PROVENCE: 1152 LES BAUX; one assumes there will be another volume forthcoming to complete the quartet.)
Ready to settle into a chair with a warm drink and immerse yourself in the lives and loves of this fascinating lady? What better time than the cold midwinter?
About Julia Justiss
Real, intense, passionate historical romance
After twelve years as a vagabond Navy wife, an adventure that took her from Virginia Beach, VA, to Monterrey, CA, to Tunis, Tunisia to Oslo, Norway and back, Julia Justiss followed her husband to his family's East Texas homeland. On a hill above a pond with a view of pasture land, they built an English Georgian-style home. Sitting at her desk there, if she ignores the summer heat, she can almost imagine herself in Jane Austen's Regency England.
In between teaching high school French and making jaunts to visit her three children (a Seabee in Gulfport, MS, a clothing buyer in Houston and a mechanical engineer in Austin, TX) she pursues her first love—writing historical fiction.
She would rather burn in his presence than pine in his absence
Faith Wellingford Evers, Duchess of Ashedon, is tired of society's endless gossiping about her failings and her late husband's infidelities. Seeking escape one night, she's attacked by ruffians, but is saved by an unlikely figure from her past!
Having risen from penniless orphan to Member of Parliament, David Tanner Smith is no longer the quiet boy Faith once knew. With the first spine-tingling kiss, their old friendship is transformed. And in its place is an explosive mix of illicit encounters and forbidden desire…
Romance Historical [Harlequin Historical Romance, On Sale: August 23, 2016, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9780373298969 / eISBN: 9781488004339]
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