QUEEN DEFIANT: A NOVEL OF ELEANOR OF AQUITAINE, by Anne O’Brien, is 412 pages and will be published in the US in June of 2011. I wanted to read it because it is published by NAL/Penguin (my new imprint!) I was sent a copy for review, and I was not disappointed.
Eleanor, Dutchess of Aquitaine and Gascony, has grown amidst splendor, education, and culture in her home lands. The king of France arranges a marriage between her and his son, Louis the Sixth, in order to acquire her regions and secure an heir for his son. While Eleanor looks forward to the marriage, she soon learns that her husband–a second son more fitting a position in the church than as a future king–is reluctant to fulfill his roles as a husband and ruler.
Years of frustration and boredom pass for Eleanor, but as a woman shrewd in business and in love, she soon makes alliances that will benefit her future more than she can understand.
Anne O’Brien’s characterization of Eleanor is vivid and complete. From a naive girl of fifteen to a wise, worldly, and powerful woman of thirty, Eleanor stops at nothing in her quest for preservation of her birthright and security for her future heirs. Her decisions aren’t always noble, but always well thought out, and it is her acumen that draws the admiration of the reader.
This is the first novel I’ve read by O’Brien, and certainly won’t be the last. QUEEN DEFIANT is a riveting historical saga in the style of Philippa Gregory and with the tension of Ken Follett’s PILLARS novels. I highly recommend it.