Monday, April 18, 2011

The Plantagenet Prelude by Jean Plaidy


"When William X dies, the duchy of Aquitaine is left to his fifteen-year-old daughter, Eleanor. But such a position for an unmarried woman puts the whole kingdom at risk. So on his deathbed William made a will that would ensure his daughter's protection: he promised her hand in marriage to the future King of France.

Eleanor grows into a romantic and beautiful queen, but she has inherited the will of a king, determined to rule Aquitaine using her husband's power as King of France. Her resolve knows no limit and, in the years to follow she is to become one of history's most scandalous queens."

(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

I'm so pleased to have been able to acquire a beautiful set of Plaidy's Plantagenet series from the UK, and I know it will be a delight to savor each one. Jean Plaidy has a gift for bringing history alive, and her novels weave history and everyday life and drama togther to give the reader an imaginative glimpse into the past. I also have two more Eleanor of Acquitaine books to read (The Courts of Love by Jean Plaidy and To Be Queen by Christy English), so it will interesting to compare and contrast the depictions of this very intriguing historical figure.

In The Plantagenet Prelude, Plaidy paints a portrait of young Eleonor (English Eleanor) that was one of beauty, intelligence, and courage. As a young queen, she was renowned for her passion for music and storytelling, and her court would often sit before a fire in the great hall and sing songs of love and chivalry. Her arranged marriage to Louis VII, the King of France, brought her more power and two daughters, but not happiness. Proud and haughty, strong enough to boldly embark on a Crusade, she eventually began to show disdain for her husband who was more devoted to the Church than to her, and sought the attentions of other men. The marriage of Louis and Eleanor was eventually ended on the basis of consanguinity (related by blood).

Eleanor's marriage to England's king, Henry II, brought her more children and contentment, but unfortunately, it was not to last. After many years, Henry's long relationship with Rosamund Clifford was a devastating shock to her after her support of Henry and the many children that they had together. Plaidy also details the relationship between Henry and Thomas Becket, the once close friend and confidante of the king. As the story ends, Henry is lamenting his part in the murder of Becket as Henry wanted to be supreme ruler of both the State and Church, and Becket was against this. As a result, Thomas was murdered and Christendom considered him a martyr.

The next installment, The Revolt of the Eaglets, continues with Henry's precarious predicament: he is punished by the Pope for his involvement in Becket's death, and he now has an enemy in his Queen, as Eleanor is now determined to seek vengeance and will use her sons to conspire against their father.

For a complete list and synopsis of Jean Plaidy's Plantagenet series, click here.

And thanks to a heads-up from Misfit, I learned that the fabulous Elizabeth Chadwick has recently signed a deal to write an Eleanor of Aquitane trilogy!! The novels will be The Summer Queen, The Winter Crown, and The Autumn Throne. Click here for Chadwick's website for more info!

3.5/5 stars

Title: The Plantagenet Prelude
Author: Jean Plaidy
original publication: 1976, 2006
Random House
417 pages
genre: historical fiction

10 comments:

Staci said...

This sounds really fascinating. I bought one of her books a few years ago and haven't read it yet. But my focus next year may be my own personal book shelves so I know I'll get to it one of these days!

Misfit said...

I've looked at this series, but I haven't had the best of luck with Plaidy. I'll be waiting anxiously for Chadwick's Eleanor trilogy.

Joanne said...

Hi, Staci -- To me, Jean Plaidy is like Georgette Heyer....a very established name with a signature style and a loyal following, but some books are better than others.

Hi, Misfit -- Thanks for the heads up about Chadwick's Eleanor trilogy. I was not aware of this, and I'm off to her website to see when the first is expected to be released.

Avid_Reader said...

Great review, Joanne. I read the first two books in Plaidy's Plantagenet series a couple of years ago. I thought they were decent, but not outstanding. I have the next six or seven books in the series, but have yet to read them.

For my money the best books about the early Plantagenet dynasty are Sharon Kay Penman's. Her novel When Christ and His Saints Slept, which is about Empress Matilda's fight for the English crown, is one of my all-time favourites - rich in historical detail, accurate-which is very important for me-and entertaining, too! I highly, highly recommend it. The next books in the series focus on Henry II, Eleanor and their children.

I recently learned about Chadwick's upcoming trilogy, and am very much looking forward to it!

Joanne said...

Hi Avid Reader --Can you believe I've only read one of SKP's books (Sunne in Splendour). I really need to read more of her.

Avid_Reader said...

Yes, you definitely need to read more of her :-)

She's definitely my favourite author of historical fiction, and she always delivers the rich, detailed historical epics I love best. She has a new book coming out in the fall called Lionheart, which, as I'm sure you can probably guess, is about Richard I.

dolleygurl said...

I have the first 5 of the books in this series. I have enjoyed the few Plaidy books I have read so far, but I haven't gotten to any of the ones in this series. Thanks for the review. I too can't wait to see what EC does with Eleanor!

Joanne said...

Hi, dolleygurl -- I'm trying to collect as many Plaidy novels as I can -- I read so many of her novels under her pen name Victoria Holt, so I'm just beginning to start working my way through her historicals. They're light and easy to read. :)

Misfit said...

I'm with Avid Reader - Penman has set the bar very high and I can't wait for Lionheart. I loved the Eleanor she's created, but I do look forward to what Elizabeth Chadwick will come up with.

Joanne said...

Misfit and Avid Reader -- I think it's very intriguing that Chadwick says of her Eleanor trilogy, "It is time for the truth to be told."
Interesting.

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