Michelle Feist's Reviews > Captive Queen: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine

Captive Queen by Alison Weir
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Oct 18, 2011

did not like it
bookshelves: gave-up-on
Read from October 17 to 18, 2011

I don't think I have ever stopped reading a book so quickly before, and the only reason I got as far as I did was because I was stuck on the busride to swimming lessons with my class, and needed something to do to pass the time! I kept hoping if I continued reading it would begin to get better, as I was interested in finding out more about the passionate yet volatile relationship between King Henry the II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.
The first quality that annoyed me about this book was that it read sort of like a steamy medieval Harlequin romance. I have no problem with intimate scenes in novels, but the historical novels I have previously read expressed the scenes with language that indicated passion, etc. but didn't sound so 20th-century smutty. I almost snorted out loud a couple times at the ridiculous phrases!
Which leads me to my second criticism - the language was almost too contemporary with medieval characters using modern day slang like "So...you're hot for the queen, huh?" I highly doubt noblemen of the day used words like "hot for" to describe lusting after a woman! It completely destroyed any ability to take the novel seriously - and it certainly didn't transport the reader back to medieval Europe.
The last issue I had with this book is the tendency of the author to spell out everything for the reader, often using her characters to directly verbalize the things that a good author would allow the reader to infer, or would at least connect the dots more subtlely for the reader. Within their first moments alone, Henry and Eleanor don't just talk like new lovers, but also expound on how fortunate it would be for Henry to marry her and that would make him the most powerful man in Europe, because she is the heiress to lands here, there and everywhere etc, - which not only sounds too "explanatory" for a sophisticated novel, but also doesn't seem like credible dialogue between 2 people who have just spent themselves in the throes of passion. Way to much telling instead of showing.
I was deeply disappointed in this novel as I had heard so many good things about the writing of Alison Weir. Perhaps her actual historical writing (about the Wars of the Roses and the Princes in the Tower) is better because she wouldn't have to add in stupid dialogue and depth-less characterization. So in all, I would say to avoid this book (unless you want some cheap laughs at the cheesy love scenes - ha! ha!).
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Laura Thompson I have read several of Alison Weir's non fiction books and highly recommend them--you are exactly right. Once she is free of "novelization" and sticks to the facts, she's fantastic.

Michelle Feist I'm so glad to hear that! I really want to pick up some of her books on the War of the Roses, etc. and was feeling rather tentative, but I'm happy to hear that her writing of non-fiction is much better. I will definitely give her another chance!

Lynda Johnston Such a shame that you didn't persevere Michelle, I felt exactly the same way as you about the start of the book. But it was almost like two totally separate books and in the second half the author returned to her brilliant best. I still prefer Elizabeth Chadwick's portrayal of Eleanor however, who I think captured perfectly the essence of one of history's most remarkable women.

Michelle Feist Interesting...I may have to give this a second go. Thank you for the feedback!

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