The Canterbury Papers


It is 1200. Twenty years earlier, Alaïs Capet, daughter of Louis VII of France and his second wife, was rejected as a bride for Richard Coeur de Lion because of her affair with his father, King Henry. Now Princess Alaïs, a beautiful yet aging spinster, languishes at her brother’s court. When Eleanor of Aquitaine writes to her former ward, asking her to retrieve some damning letters from Canterbury Cathedral, Alaïs willingly accepts – particularly since Eleanor agrees to give her information about a child born in secret long ago. This promised revelation leads Alaïs into danger and intrigue as she journeys throughout England and France, never knowing who her real enemies are.
What an excellent premise! Princess Alaïs is a neglected historical figure, and here she becomes a strong-willed heroine, someone worthy of taking on Eleanor of Aquitaine and winning. The plot moves smoothly throughout, making this a pleasant, entertaining read. But occasional use of modern idiom drew me out of the story, and despite the constant reference to medieval clothing, food, and locales, the setting never really came alive for me. The Afterword acknowledges how the author changed a few historical facts to suit the plot, but doesn’t explain why Isabelle of Angoulême appears as a fully grown woman when she would have been only 12 or 13 at the time.
Though the author shows promise, more controlled use of language and faithfulness to known history would have caused me to like it more.

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