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The Canterbury Papers : A Novel of Suspense (Alais Capet #1)

3.55  ·  Rating Details ·  1,084 Ratings  ·  141 Reviews
Set in lavishly described medieval England and France, The Canterbury Papers is an enthralling and suspenseful debut novel combining dark family secrets, duplicity, and a missing heir to the throne.

The wily Eleanor of Aquitaine, queen of France and then of England, sends her former ward, Alaïs, the sister of the king of France, to retrieve a cache of letters hidden in Cant
Published January 1st 2004 by William Morrow (first published December 23rd 2003)
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Rabbit {Paint me like one of your 19th century gothic heroines!}
I really enjoyed this book. Well plotted with decently-written characters. :D

This book is also not a chunkster. :)
Originally reviewed here.

Okay, all you lovers of Grave Mercy. Listen up. I think this book is for you. I first read THE CANTERBURY PAPERS about six years ago, though it was originally published back in 2003. This is Judith Koll Healey's first novel, though she was a previously published poet and author of short fiction. It was the cover that caught my eye in the bookstore. When I picked it up and read that it took place during the 12th century and involved the crafty Eleanor of Aquintaine and th
Ana T.
I am always very fond of stories that bring some light to those minor, forgotten characters of history. I am fully aware that if they are minor characters a lot of the writer tells me is pure fiction but I like to imagine that it could have been so.

When I found a book about Princess Alais of France, of which I only knew she was Richard, the Lionheart's betrothed and that they never married because she became his father's mistress, I couldn't help but be interested. As many of the HF being publis
Mirah W
Jul 22, 2011 Mirah W rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this was a light, quick read. I had never heard of Princess Alais so I found the plot very engaging. I liked reading something about a little known figure in history as opposed to the more popular Henry, Eleanor, or Richard. Even though some turns in the plot were not a surprise for me, I still enjoyed it overall. The way Healey painted Alais made her interesting and I was curious how everything would play out for her in the end. While there may have been some discrepe ...more
Jul 18, 2009 Lexi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: light-fiction
I'm getting tired of saying "this was better than expected" so I guess I'll have to expect better in the future! A gutsy, smart heroine; a bunch of royalty, knights, and monks; mysterious kidnappings and letters; and love, passion, and old betrayal. There's a lot in this book. The dialog is fun, the emotion good (if a bit over-dramatic at times), and the action is well-played. Oh, and it takes place in 1200, so there are horses and maids and everything, thankfully excepting the body odor and dis ...more
an easy & enthralling read - alternative history of Princesse Alais who was bethrothed (but not wed) to Richard the lionheart.
Rosanne Lortz
“This plot is ridiculous.” I was about a third of the way through The Canterbury Papers when I uttered those critical words to my husband. Eleanor of Aquitaine wanted Alais, the French princess who used to be betrothed to her son Richard, to travel to Canterbury and obtain some secret letters hidden in the altar near Thomas Becket’s tomb. In return, the princesse Alais would receive some information about a mysterious child that had long been presumed dead. “Why?” I kept asking myself. “Why in t ...more
Holly Herda
One of my favorite types of historical fiction is the type that deals with people who were real, but simply aren't given very much attention. For example, Eleanor of Aquitaine has been done to death. If she had been the main character of this book, rather than Alais Capet, I would not have picked it up. The author's use of Eleanor as a background character--albeit with considerable influence--was refreshing, as the book became more about how the next generation was influenced by her and her acti ...more
Jul 10, 2012 Karyl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookstore-finds, 2012
I have to say, it's not so much the unrealistic plot that got me about this book. I'm still wondering what the plot is. Alaïs is a French princess, raised at the English court with Eleanor of Aquitaine as her mother figure. But after King Henry had imprisoned Eleanor for trying to put her sons on the throne while he still lived, Henry takes Alaïs as his mistress, causing a rift between the two women that will never heal, and ruining Alaïs's chances of being married to his son Richard. Twenty yea ...more
Jenny OH
May 14, 2014 Jenny OH rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love historical mysteries, and I love ones that incorporate historical events and people who don't typically get enough "screen time" and imagine their stories from the fragments that are recorded. So while Eleanor of Aquitaine and King John of England (as well as a few other recognizable figures) feature in this book, the main characters are much more obscure and therefore, to me, much more interesting to follow.

The narrator and protagonist, Alais Capet, is basically a footnote today; a quic
Jul 14, 2008 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who enjoys British historical fiction
I first picked this book up because I'm fascinated by any story that has anything remotely to do with the story surrounding Eleanor of Aquitaine and her family. However, when I first started this book, I wasn't so sure I was going to like it. It seemed calculated and obvious. The further I got into it, however, the more I began to enjoy it, and I found I was having a difficult time putting it down.

It's much in the same genre of books as The Other Boleyn Girl, where the protagonist is a relative
May 20, 2015 Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Canterbury Papers brought to life an historical figure I'd never encountered before- Alaïs Capet, stepdaughter of Eleanor of Aquitane. This book did an excellent job of bringing a little-known figure into life, especially as an older (for the day) woman caught in the typical Plantagenet drama of the day.

There's a fair amount of actual history in here, and the author is good at calling out the fictitious bits from it. It's got a lot going on- mainly intrigue and mystery, but also adventure, a
Althea Ann
Set in the early 13th century, this book has more of the feeling of a
contemporary mystery/suspense novel. The middle-aged heroine, an obscure
historical figure (Alais Capet, a princess who was engaged to Richard the
Lionheart but whose marriage did not occur), is a smart and feisty woman
who would appeal to many fans of that subset of mystery novels which seem
to favor such women as protagonists - but I didn't find her believable as
a character of her time period. The historical details seem squished
Nov 15, 2007 Celia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I think there's a certain value in not starting a narrative when the main character is young, and then hauling us through their entire life. However, equally I think it makes us less interested in a character when everything interesting about them has happened in their past.

Alais, a princess of France, is sent by her would-have-been mother in law, Eleanor of England to retrieve certain indiscreet letters of hers from behind a particular stone behind a church altar. Hello, ridiculous plot! There
Kathy * Bookworm Nation
This story is about Princss Alais Capet. Alais is asked by Queen Eleanor (her step-mom) to retrieve some secret letters of hers hidden at Canterbury Cathedral. In return she promises to share some personal information with Alais. She agrees and when she finally arrives at Canterbury to searth for the letters she is abducted and taken prisoner by King John (her brother).

I debated between a 2 and 3 for this book. It took me about halfway through to really get into it. The begining was somewhat co
Alethea White-Previs
Set in medieval England and France, this novel uses as its main character a real person from the time, Princess Alais, former ward of Eleanor of Aquitaine. I admit to having a little difficulty at first, keeping up with all of the characters and their relationships, as I am much more experienced with Tudor history than medieval English and French history. Eleanor sends Alais to Canterbury Cathedral to secretly retrieve a cache of letters hidden behind the altar, but this only opens up a whole pl ...more
Dec 13, 2012 Emily rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
I'm a big Eleanor of Aquitaine fan* and was intrigued to read a story about the younger generation, the children of Eleanor, Henry, and Louis. In the end, though, I felt this book was undermined by a thousand cuts of historical inaccuracy. The 12th century characters keeps breaking into 20th century high-school French; they bathe all the time and dress in fabrics that weren't available until hundreds of years later; they nosh on salad and dab their lips with white-linen "serviettes." The main ch ...more
Nov 01, 2008 Caryn rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was disappointed with this book and would not recommend it.

In my opinion, it is very poorly written. The characters are broadly drawn, lacking depth and personality, especially the main character/narrator, Princess Alais of France, who is anachronistic and unsympathetic. The story reads like a bad romance novel filled with "important secrets" that are finally revealed so casually that the reader wonders why so many artificial contrivances were made to keep them hidden- accept that if they wer
May 23, 2009 Trudy added it
This book is one of my recent favorites... Historical fiction based on a little known princess in the old English monarcy. Alaiis is sent on a mission to find some letters for Queen Eleanor in exchange for some information regarding a son she had with Eleanor's husband, King Henry, when he had Eleanor held captive in a castle keep. As Alaiis makes the trek from her brother's court to Canterbury, the intrigues escalate. Without divulging too much of the plot, I will say that this story is definit ...more
Feb 15, 2009 Victoria rated it liked it
An average, light historical fiction read, with a moderately engaging plot and an ending that is unfortunately telegraphed fairly quickly. Set immediately after the upheaval of Eleanor of Aquitaine and her sons' intrigues for the English throne. Very similar in style to Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl, with a minor historical character taking center stage. There are much better reads in this genre, and I'm particularly thinking of Sharon Kay Penman's Devil's Brood about Eleanor herself.
Kris - My Novelesque Life

"The only thing I felt was a strong hand around my neck, another around my waist, and -- before I could cry out -- I smelled the thick, sweet scent of a mandrake-soaked cloth. Unforgiving hands clapped it against my face, and all went dark.

Alaïs, the king of France's sister, is abducted while on her mission for the wily Eleanor of Aquitaine, the former Queen of England, to retrieve hidden letters that, in the wrong hands, could bring down the English king. In exchange, the French prince
Mar 09, 2009 Julia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a suspenseful novel set in medieval England and France. The story focuses on the retrieval of some letters written by the Queen of England that would reveal the evidence of a bastard child born to the King by a young girl 20 years prior, and this child could be a threat to the King by making a claim to the throne. There were so many Dukes, Princesses, Priors, Abbeys, Knights of Templar, etc that I found it difficult to comprehend the roles and importance of each of these characters. Ther ...more
Pauline Montagna
Although I found this novel an enjoyable read and I liked the heroine, in the end I was rather disappointed. It was well written and I was impressed with the premise of revisiting one of the forgotten women of history, Alais, Henry II's young mistress, but time and again the author set up expectations that weren't fulfilled and posed questions that were never answered. My main problem was why Eleanor of Acquitaine, who hated Alais, would ask her to look for papers that would compromise her and p ...more
Dec 24, 2008 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
let me preface this review by saying that i am absolutely in love with historical fiction that deals with the british monarchy. i thought i only liked stories of the tudors, but turns out the plantagenets aren't so bad either.

i actually enjoyed this book better than books by authors like phlippa gregory. maybe it had more to do with the fact that i'm less familiar with this period of history, but i felt that this story wasn't as forced as did some of the plot lines involving he tudors.
there were
Apr 19, 2010 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A highly entertaining historical novel, set in the year 1200 in France and England and full of several familiar names from medieval history. Palace intrigue, lively characters, and a decent mystery kept this reader entertained. The novel's protagonist, Princesse Alais, feisty old gal that she was, the daughter of a king and sister to another, provided the central narrative. One came to completely admire her courage and determination, even as one wondered how she could not see what was right in f ...more
Douglas Cook

First sentences

My last feelings, just before the hands seized me, were of my cold limbs. My last memory before darkness was of a trivial nature . I recall noticing the torches lining the cathedral walls and the leaping shadows that sprang from their fire to perform a macabre dance as if for my entertainment. They reminded me of a traveling dance troupe from Venice I once saw, tall, thin figures garbed in black cloaks and doublets, rising and falling like shafts of dark water in rhythm.

Healey, Ju
Mar 13, 2013 Kirsten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful exploration of the relationship between Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine & their court. Their children and stepchildren had a fascinating education at their feet. Unfortunately, history recorded the specifics of the males but was less focused on the females and their activity. Healey explores the possibility that Princess Alex (Alais), Eleanor's stepdaughter, had an effect on the succession plan of the English throne. She incorporates the Knights Templar, Thomas a Becket and the A ...more
Anna Karras
Jul 14, 2009 Anna Karras rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alaiis, Princess of France, is very good at getting into trouble. Her stepmother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, has asked her to retrieve some papers hidden in a secret spot on the altar at Canterbury Cathedral. Even though Alaiis has not spoken nor seen Eleanor in over 20 years, she makes the trip from Paris to Canterbury to do her bidding. There she reacquaints herself with an old schoolmate, now William of Caen, and the head of the Knights Templar in England. A kidnapping, imprisonment, murder, and r ...more
Jul 04, 2007 fbtarmo rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
I love this period of English history and I especially love this screwed up little family so I was intruiged by a fictionalization of one the marginal historical characters. But the real-life figures just become an excuse to have the book which I don't think is that well written. I think I would gain more suspense and tension from reading the histories than this. It is well-researched but the dialogue comes across clumsy and at times I feel like I am reading a convent captivity narrative. Actual ...more
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Judith Koll Healey is currently the president of a national firm that works with families in their philanthropic efforts. She is a published poet and short-fiction writer and has lectured internationally on the topic of art and the unconscious. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

* Alais Capet
More about Judith Koll Healey...

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