The Queen’s Pawn
Eleanor of Aquitaine is a personal hero of mine, so I was very intrigued to read Christy English’s take on this dynamic woman whose political influence and forceful personality left such an indelible imprint on European history. There was also more than a little fear that Eleanor would not come to life as I hoped, but, thankfully, Ms. English exceeded my expectations.
The Queen’s Pawn tells the story of Eleanor, her estranged husband Henry II of England, her son Richard, and his betrothed, Princess Alais of France. Alais arrives in England at age eleven to be raised in expectation of marrying Richard, but she immediately connects emotionally with Eleanor, who comes to think of her as a true daughter. Three years later, Alais emerges from her convent haven ready to marry, falling deeply in love with Richard and continuing to idolize Eleanor. But betrayals lead Alais to do the unthinkable, and this strict Christian suddenly sees her own road to power and retribution by not only seducing Henry, but seeking to replace Eleanor as queen.
This story moves along at a rapid pace, though at times the writing is a bit flowery. I never really bought into the instant devotion of Eleanor and Alais, but Eleanor’s actions seemed plausible and the story is well plotted. Overall I rather enjoyed the author’s “what if?” take on the suspected affair between Henry and Alais, and I appreciated the excellent author’s notes in the end that fully explained her research and reasoning for changing dates. I can honestly say I enjoyed the tale of Eleanor’s intrigues and Alais’s awakening.